By Daniel Rocchi
Lucas Coleman has played his way across Canada, the United States and the world, from Portugal and El Salvador to Cyprus and Cuba.
But there's no place like home for one the top outside hitters in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA). And that means there's no place like Ryerson.
"I knew Ryerson was home for me," says Coleman from his seat overlooking the Coca-Cola Court at the Mattamy Athletic Centre, killing time before beginning the daily weight-room ritual of what he calls his most important offseason. "It had a much better feel than I found at any other school."
Coleman joined the Rams in January 2014, leaving behind a volleyball scholarship at Utah's Brigham Young University (BYU), home to one of the U.S.'s top athletics programs.
The value of experiencing BYU certainly wasn't lost on Coleman, but the native of Brooklin, Ont., barely an hour's drive from the Big Smoke, knew where his heart lay.
"They have a fantastic volleyball program, probably the best in the NCAA," says the professional communications major of his first post-secondary stop. "But I couldn't see myself living there for four years."
"I wanted to be close to home and Utah was just a little too far."
Joining the Rams meant reuniting with several past teammates, including fourth-years Alex Dawson and Robert Wojcik, who played with Coleman on the Durham Attack club team as high-schoolers.
Though they fell out of touch after their days with the Attack, the chance to play alongside some familiar faces made Coleman's transfer to Ryerson all the more fulfilling.
"Right when I walked onto the team, it was like I knew them just like I did back in the [old] days," he says. "It was like nothing was gone."
Coleman seemed to click well with his new team as soon as he arrived. He was second on the team with just over three points a game in his 23 sets as a first-year player.
But Coleman confesses that it wasn't until Ryerson's first-round playoff game against York that he finally felt comfortable as a Ram.
"That was probably the most [high-] pressure game I've played at Ryerson," recalls Coleman. "I was able to come off the bench ... and immediately step in, and I knew 'I want to be the leader of this team and take this team as far as we can go.'"
Coleman had 17 kills, second amongst all Rams, in a tight 3-2 road win over the Lions.
Joining the team halfway through the season meant missing summer training camp and team building exercises, including the team's midseason trip to Cuba. Although he was playing with some former colleagues, Coleman did feel somewhat out of place.
Being a part of team exercises prior to this season was instrumental in changing that, and now Coleman would hardly call himself a misfit.
"I'm definitely a part of something — outside of the team — here with them," says Coleman as assistant coach Luka Milosevic walks by and gives him a high-five. "They're my best friends."
And when this year's campaign began, it was obvious that Coleman felt right at home.
The Rams were dominant all season long, jockeying for position near the top of the league en route to a 15-5 record and a second-place regular season finish, thanks in large part to a stellar second year from Coleman, his first full season in a Ryerson uniform.
Coleman tied for third place among all OUA players in kills and kills per set, claimed third in the conference in points and points per set and finished in the top ten for total service aces and aces per set.
Those numbers were good enough to earn Coleman a spot on the OUA First All-Star Team as Ryerson's only representative to the team. Coleman also became just the second men's volleyball player in Rams history to earn All-Canadian status when he was named to the CIS Second All-Canadian Team.
"He was so impressive this year," says head coach Mirek Porosa. "He exceeded, I think, his own expectations and those of the coaching staff. He was so consistent and efficient."
With the OUA season in the rear-view mirror, Coleman is hoping those qualities will earn him a spot on the Canadian junior national team this summer.
Coleman was a key member of the squad that earned Canada a berth in the 2014 world junior championship with a semifinal win against the United States before falling to Cuba in the gold medal game of the U-21 NORCECA Continental Championship in El Salvador last summer.
Coleman finished second on the Canadian team in spikes and points, good for fifth and 17th among all tournament players, respectively. He was also the only Canadian to crack the tournament's top 10 in serving, eighth overall.
But he isn't considering himself a lock for the team that will compete at that championship in Mexico in September. Coleman points to Canada's depth on the left side and his six-foot-four frame — relatively short for an outside hitter — as potential hurdles, but he's not about to let either slow him down.
"You never know, but I'm working my butt off to make this team, so I hope to be on it." Regardless of what happens with the national team, Coleman isn't losing focus of his goals with the Rams.
He still has high hopes for his future with the team, especially after two quick playoff exits.
The quarter-final win against York in 2014 was followed by a defeat at the hands of the McMaster Marauders in Ryerson's first Final Four appearance since 2008. This season ended in disappointment after the Windsor Lancers upset the nationally ranked Rams in the quarterfinals.
Coleman believes his team is better than those results and that Ryerson can be a perennial challenger for both the provincial and national titles.
He intends to prove it before he graduates.
"We just need to get a little more consistent, but all of the pieces are there," says Coleman. "It's tough to create a dynasty — if it was easy everyone would be doing it."
"But I would definitely like to start something."
Down on the court below, a few of Coleman's teammates are playing basketball, a frequent pass-time for the team. Rising from his seat, Coleman calls out a greeting to them and departs to join the game.